What does it take to be a conservative?

October 16, 2007 by barbara

barbara writes

Say, did I mention that my guy won the Nobel Peace Prize? Well, yes, 90-year old Minnesota economist Leonid Hurwicz, of course. But alongside that, last Friday, I was totally jazzed by Al Gore’s big win. Finally, international affirmation for his lifetime of dedication to making peace with the planet. Vindication. Payback, fair and square. Oh, yeah, baby. Woo hoo!

Within nanoseconds of the Gore announcement, the punditry ratcheted up their “will he run, won’t he run?” speculation (okay, so did I). Also, a mighty wingnut projectile puke-a-thon commenced. Apparently the current twin mantras of the right are “Leave no child undamaged” (think Graeme Frost and SCHIP) and “Leave no one who makes Dubya look bad unsmeared.” The latter is a little tricky for them, since the numbers are so vast. Read more.

In this era of melting icecaps, I seem to have gone politically bi-polar. Hope and despair, duking it out, over and over again. I’ve heard it said that neocons traffic in despair. Probably so, since generally speaking, despair renders us mute. Oh, sure, there’s the occasional agonized scream. But otherwise, despair generates limp-limbed lethargy and darkly pessimistic thoughts. What could be more pleasing to Bush Republicans? Have I become a tool of the wingnuts?

No. No! NO!! You can’t have me! That distant, hopeful voice in the hidey-hole of my soul is demanding attention again. Jeez, what a pest. And so the cycle begins again.

Notice that earlier, I referenced “Bush Republicans.” I actually believe that some conservatives are not sycophantic, egocentric creatures. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Remember that my children are conservative. It is a painful thing for me, but it is what it is (thanks, Charlene!). Lately – the last few days, in fact – I’ve been thinking about why it is that people opt for conservatism, Republicanism, even wingnuttery. I think I’ve figured it out.

It’s easy to be a conservative. It requires no effort. No effort at all. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to be for anything. You need only be against things. Generally speaking, it doesn’t seem that conservatives concern themselves with defending, protecting, empowering anyone but their immediate circle. They are against government, against taxes, against immigration, adamantly opposed to taxes, non-traditional marriage, taxes, public education, taxes, ending the Iraq occupation, taxes, and they hate Al Gore. For starters.

You can be a conservative without ever leaving home – except to vote straight party ticket. You don’t have to formulate opinions nor defend those already formed. It is a fuzzy, tops-down, anti-liberal system that demands only loyalty. Where’s the harm in that? Isn’t loyalty a desirable trait? And what better way to demonstrate loyalty than to speak confidently, incessantly and in tandem about those damn do-gooder Democrats?

Well, enough of this. I am once again in search of hope. My friend Margaret knows where it is. I might ask her to take me there again.

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Bad Penny (not verified) | October 16, 2007 - 10:26am

It takes a lot of work to be a real liberal. If you are a conservative and do nothing, you fit right in. It's getting harder to tell the difference between liberals and conservatives. Both are very lazy. Liberals are waiting for someone else to do the work but it is not happening. So it is a standoff, isn't it? bummer.


susan | October 16, 2007 - 1:07pm

Quick, before the wing nuts find a reason to smear him, read about Ali Shakeri, an Iranian-American who was held in Iran's "dreaded" Evin prison for five months for unknown reasons. He lives and teaches in California, where he is a founder of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the U of CA, Irvine. He returned to Iran to visit his dying mother, and while at the airport to return to America, Iranian authorities seized him for unknown reasons. Although not physically mistreated, he says he was insulted verbally, and spent most of the time in solitary confinement. (Good thing it was the Iranian terrorists holding him and not the American do-gooders with their amusement park rides like the waterboard.)
There's more to this story of course, but one line struck me. In fact, it kicked me in the head for all my moping and whining about loss of hope. Here's a man being held in solitary confinement on unknown charges, with no idea when he'll be released if ever, a sort of Gitmo lite, who says, "I had to do something to be morally strong and optimistic about the future and not lose my will."
He staved off the terrible loneliness, he says, by trying to concentrate on issues larger than his immediate problems, and to redouble his efforts to promote dialogue between the United States and Iran.
So, here I am in my nice house, free to write what I want, to take to the streets, even vote for whom I like (okay, that part's harder) and I'm depressed? Let's kick some ass. I remain a two-party voting kind of depresso, and will redouble my efforts for regime change in 2008. And then I'm rooting for Ali Shakeri to help pave the way to peace with Iran. Oh yeah, and maybe with Iraq while he's at it.


barbara aka babs (not verified) | October 16, 2007 - 8:13pm

Reminiscent of Kafka's "The Trial." But then, much of BushCo echoes that old refrain. A long time ago, a dear friend told me that it is difficult to be a Christian alone. I gather that referenced community. It certainly applies to other faiths and other endeavors beyond Christianity. Say, for instance, politics. Say, for instance, progressive politics. Whatever else is wrong with the GOP (take a sheet of paper, divide it into columns, number from 1 to 100 in each column and call it sheet 1A), there is a certain clubbiness, clannishness, bullheaded camaraderie that glues them all together. Okay, maybe it's Silly Putty. Whatever. There are pockets of cohesion on our side. Power brokers. King makers. Peace makers. Labor. Environmentalists. But I have little sense of, for lack of a better word, togetherness. Maybe that's because our tent is so large and generally welcoming. It occurs to me that part of what's missing is the kind of cohesiveness that makes it possible to be alone, even for extended periods of time, without despairing. Maybe it's just about faith. That and an abiding belief, yea verily hope, that decency will overcome the rest somehow or other.